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The Greatness of the Kingdom: Alva McClain’s Classic Work


Greatness-of-the-KingdomI’m now reading through this often recommended book, Alva McClain’s “The Greatness of the Kingdom,” considered one of the best treatments concerning an oft-neglected topic: the kingdom of God as presented in the scriptures.

I still have a long way to go in reading this, but for now just sharing a few great quotes and observations. McClain looks at the mediatorial kingdom as presented in scripture, beginning with the Old Testament theocracy in the nation Israel, with chapters that consider the mediatorial kingdom in history, and the mediatorial kingdom in the prophets. The mediatorial kingdom actually began – not with the monarchy in Israel, kings Saul and then David, but much earlier – with the nation coming out of Egypt under Moses’ leadership. One interesting observation concerning the importance of Moses’ leadership and the mediatorial kingdom:

By no device of exegesis can the force of this great prophecy (Acts 3:19-23), considered in relation to its original context and sense, be watered down to fit the theory of a “kingdom of grace” existing only in the hearts of men. On this point the terrible fate of Korah and his followers, as a swift judgment upon the rebellion against Moses, stands as a clear testimony as to the meaning of the prophecy concerning the regal authority of that coming prophet who will be a greater than Moses.

A good introductory comment concerning our attitude toward the subject:

it should be held axiomatic that any conception of the Kingdom of God which rests in large part upon a certain interpretation of a single text or passage of the Bible must be regarded with deep suspicion. In this category are the systems built around such passages as, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21) or “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:19) …. The doctrine of the Kingdom should be determined by an inductive examination of ALL the Biblical material on the subject, and it should not have to stand or fall by the inclusion or exclusion of isolated passages.

Also, this note concerning proper meaning and use of the term “spiritual”:

It is high time that this perfectly good term (“spiritual”) should be rescued from the abuse it has suffered at the hands of theologians who, either consciously or otherwise, have been under the spell of Platonic philosophy. Wherever and whenever we find God establishing a direct and personal relationship between Himself and other personalities, whether as individuals or as a group, regardless of place or conditions, such a relationship must be regarded as basically *spiritual* in nature.

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  1. March 6, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I would be hard pressed to come up with a better selection of the “top three” quotes from this great volume of Biblical theology. What is contained in your post above captures the essence of McClain’s teaching on the kingdom of God from Scripture very well indeed.

  2. alf
    March 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    I agree. Good selection of quotes. This is a book I constantly go back to.

  3. March 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks, Jack and Alf. Great reading so far, and a good “go to” reference work on the subject.

  4. March 8, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    I still need to get around to reading this book!

    • March 8, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      I have “fleshed out” the quotes from Lynda above, and included full documentation for those who might find that useful. Where words are enclosed in asterisks they are in italics in the original. I have placed them in page number sequence as they occur in McClain’s volume.

      On *A Method of Approach* –
      “In beginning this study it should be held axiomatic that any conception of the Kingdom of God which rests in large part upon a certain interpretation of a single text or passage of the Bible must be regarded with deep suspicion. In this category are the systems built around such passages as, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21), or “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:19), or the parable of the leaven (Matt. 13:33), or the ethical principles of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), or the 20th chapter of the Book of Revelation. The doctrine of the Kingdom should be determined by an inductive examination of *all* the Biblical material on the subject, and it should not have to stand or fall by the inclusion or exclusion of isolated passages where interpretation may be in serious dispute.”
      Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom: An Inductive Study of the Kingdom of God (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1959), pg. 16.

      On Acts 3:19-23 –
      “By no device of exegesis can the force of this great prophecy, considered in relation to its original context and sense, be watered down to fit the theory of a “kingdom of grace” existing only in the hearts of men. On this point the terrible fate of Korah and his followers, as a swift judgment upon the rebellion against Moses, stands as a clear testimony as to the meaning of the prophecy concerning the regal authority of that coming prophet who will be a greater than Moses.”
      Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom: An Inductive Study of the Kingdom of God (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1959), pp. 59-60.

      On *This Historical Kingdom Basically a Spiritual Kingdom* –
      “It is high time that this perfectly good term should be rescued from the abuse it has suffered at the hands of theologians who, either consciously or otherwise, have been under the spell of Platonic philosophy. A discussion of the Biblical use of the term “spiritual” will be found in the Appendix [note 3], but this much may be said here: Wherever and whenever we find God establishing a direct and personal relationship between Himself and other personalities, whether as individuals or as a group, regardless of place or conditions, such a relationship must be regarded as basically *spiritual* in nature.”
      [note 3] See chap. XXVII.
      Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom: An Inductive Study of the Kingdom of God (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1959), pg. 66.

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